Apple's new wireless keyboard is a thing of beauty. It's right up there among our very favourite designs to spring from the fertile imaginations of the Apple design team. It took a tantalisingly long time for our order to arrive, due to some hold-up at the FCC, but the wait was well worth it.
This wireless version of the Apple Keyboard has a narrower, more compact key layout than its wired brother. It uses the same ultra-thin aluminium base, and same key shape as the wired board, but has only 12 function keys compared to the wired board's 19.
The trimmed-down wireless board also lacks the right-hand numeric keypad and obviously comes without the twin USB 2.0 ports, which would have required too much expense and power. But sod the USB ports. What you gain is a keyboard that you can sit on your lap and work with from the other side of the room, sans cables.
The board is raised a few millimetres higher off the table than the wired board, not that you'd notice from the way it looks or feels in use. It still lies nearly flat with the desktop, with the only raised element being the battery bay, which takes three AAs.
Apple claims those three batteries can provide nine months of juice, which sounds a little optimistic in our experience of similarly power wireless keyboard. We think six months is a more reliable figure but time will tell.
The weight required to press commands is now a fraction of that required by the chunky keyboard, and because the device is so slim you don't need to exert much effort to get your hands over the keys.
It's extremely fast to type on and comfortable. Because it's compact, you get more desktop space, too, and if, like us, you sometimes use a graphics tablet, we found you get a more ergonomic desk position for the tablet thanks to the space saved. It works on all Bluetooth-enabled Macs but looks particularly stunning next to a Mac mini. Then again, what doesn't?
Next to the regular keys are some new arrivals, bringing in the extra functions that we first noticed on the wired board. You get new Dashboard and Exposé shortcuts, plus track browsing keys (backward, play/pause, forward). These work really well when you're playing back media files, particularly in iTunes.
Cleaning is easy as there is next to no space between the keys for crumbs or dirt to fall down. That said, we have begun to notice some marks on the keys of the wired board, the kind that come from endless finger touches. A rub with a damp cloth sees them off fairly painlessly.